Brett's Ramblings

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6 minutes reading time (1115 words)

This is how I know someone will make it in DFIR (or in anything)

The #1 factor is not giving up. The #2 factor is talent. Actually, scratch #2. You can make it without talent if you don’t give up. Talent is overrated.

<sounds of desks being pounded>

Let me explain what I mean before going further. Not giving up has to be the most important, because if you give up, no matter how good you are, you will not make it. Because you quit.  By “talent”, I mean natural talent with all the benefits that others have to work at.  You do not need natural talent to make it in DFIR. You need persistence, tenacity, curiosity, and the willingness to learn. If you don’t give up on these things, you will make it.
  •   *Here is the thing about giving up or quitting:      It is easy to do.
  •   *Here is the thing about not giving up or not quitting:      It’s tough.
  •   *Here’s the other thing:      You will never know “when” you will make it.

I talked about my path into “DFIR” (specifically, the DF part) in today’s Patreon podcast.  Although I didn’t talk about everything, I did give the broad-brush stroke of what I had to do. It took years, lots of my money, lots of my personal time, and personal risks. This was before the flood of colleges offering degrees in cyber/forensics. With a wife, two young kids, and working full-time as an undercover cop with crazy schedules and travel, I had every reason to quit. More of that in my podcast, but you get the point. Others have had more difficult circumstances to get into the field, so I’m not complaining. I'm just saying that I have yet to meet someone who glided into their favorite DFIR job just as easy as buying a book on Amazon.

For some years, I taught at the University of Washington's Digital Forensics program.  Every student in the UW-Seattle Digital Forensics program that I taught was told the same thing, on the first day of the program each year:  “If you are sitting in this room, with the intention to learn forensics, you are smart enough and have the opportunity to do it. You just have to do it.” - me

I say that to you reading this, here and now.

By the way, this post was inspired by Liam Booth.

From those words that I read in the post, Liam is going to do it.

A story of not giving up

When I was a younger pup in a military course that had a lot of walking in it, the last walk on the last day was a long one.  Before that last “walk” of 20 something miles, one of the guys next to me said that he is going to make it even if it kills him. Of course, I said, “Me too.”

At the end of this walk, I was sitting and watching the last people coming down the hill and there was that guy walking down the hill.  He fell, got up, fell, got up, fell, and didn’t get up. Then he was crawling. Then the Corpsman rushed to him. He was having a heart attack, and then he tried to fight off the Corpsman until they got control of him.

The good news is that he lived. The bad news is that he was medically discharged afterward. But I sure learned what determination looked like. He had it. I don’t remember his name, but I am sure that whatever he wanted to accomplish after the military, he did it. I wish I remembered his name because I am curious. Then again, I’m not curious because I know that he made exactly what he wanted. He has been my role model of determination every since. 

I hope that I imprinted this trait on my kids, and think I have. My son wanted Harvard to accept him out of high school. That didn't work...he was not happy at all about it...but after going to another college and working extremely hard at everything, he starts Harvard law this year. Determination and tenacity will win out over natural talent and wishy-washyness. 

Back to knowing who will make it in DFIR

My point is that it is difficult to get into any profession, including DFIR, but there are some who I have met that I know will make it. There are also those who I meet and I know they have no chance. Not because of who they are, what they are, or where they come from, but because of attitude.

For me, DFIR is overwhelming in that there is so much information and breadth, that choosing something specific to focus on is like being a kid in a game store who is only able to buy one game. Or more personally, me walking inside Cabalas…. But that is also what makes DFIR so great with so many opportunities.

Making the long story short

  •   *Do not quit, period.
  •   *Motivate yourself because no one else will.
  •   *Make your plan, because no one else’s plan will work for you.
  •   *If you think you can, you’re right.
  •   *If you think you can’t, you’re right.
  •   *There is no magic bullet to get what you want.

One more thing

I want to be the person that is the #1 supporter of anyone and everyone who wants to better themselves, improve themselves, and get into any profession. Motivated people motivate me. I have had plenty of obstacles in my life, and I distinctly remember each and every person who either cracked a door for me to step inside, held out a hand so I could pull myself up, or pointed me in a direction so that I would at least be going forward and not backward. I also remember the saboteurs, but not for the same reasons.

So, the ‘one more thing’ is that we, those in DFIR, should endeavor to fan the flames of those with the attitude and motivation to follow in your footsteps. I say “your" footsteps, only because I am also working my way forward in the shadows of those who came before me, those who are clearly more skilled, and those who I value as a role model.

My goal…I want anyone who I can give guidance, to do more in their life, than I ever could in mine. If we don't at least do that, then what is the point of it all?

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